Lauderdale Courts Featured In Parade Magazine
Source: Kim Brisco
May 10, 2005
Memphis, TN May 8, 2005 -- The saving and renovation of Elvis' teenage home, Lauderdale Courts, is featured in this week's PARADE magazine as an inspiring preservation effort for the publication's "Tell America's Story" Preservation Award Contest. The National Preservation Month promotion is done in inconjunction with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the History Channel.
On the National Register of Historic Places, Lauderdale Courts (now called Uptown Square) was built in 1938 as one of the nation's first public housing developments under Franklin D. Roosevelt's WPA initiative. Built by some of Memphis' top architects of the day, the 66 building apartment community lies on a 22-acre track of the city's downtown area. It is one of the few remaining depression-era developments still standing.
In the mid 90s the structure, in disrepair, was scheduled for demolition. A fervent letter writing campaign by Elvis fans to local and national housing departments, to the mayor to the president of the United States and Memphis Heritage preservation organization's effort to place Lauderdale Courts on the National Register of Historic Places stopped the wrecking ball.
However, the buildings laid dormant until seasoned downtown developer, Jack Belz of Belz Enterprises, Inc. and new urbanism developer, Henry Turley of Henry Turley Company partnered with the City of Memphis to transform the property. By pooling $36 million in public and private funds and bringing the best architects of Memphis once again, the once-neglected development was renovated to become a chic, garden-style apartment community known as Uptown Square. It is now part of the $150 million,1,000 home, 100 city block downtown revitalization effort called Uptown Memphis.
This downtown apartment community has garnered local and regional landmark awards to become a national model for mixed-income living. From doctors and researchers with nearby St. Jude hospital, to downtown business and legal professionals, to working families and working publicly assisted families, the community continues its promise to provide housing for all.
Uptown Square boasts as Memphis' first wireless apartment community. Residents also enjoy media, business and fitness centers along with a new outdoor pool.
Moreover, the 689 square-foot floor plan of Elvis Presley's apartment was preserved while other apartments were expanded to meet modern living tastes. In 1949, Elvis and his parents Vernon and Gladys moved in what would be at that time their most stable home.
A then shy Elvis practiced his guitar in the laundry room basement or played in the dark to passersby from his bedroom window. The communal courts were conducive to afternoon and evening gigs among the musicians in Lauderdale Courts. Elvis would gradually feel free to join them.
The significance of this place is its location and sense of community that gave Elvis the support and exposure to Memphis music culture. Beale Street, Ellis Auditorium and Poplar Tunes Record Store were all in walking distance. Sun Studio would be just a mile away.
Memphis also was experiencing breakthrough radio programming with WHBQ's DJ Dewey Phillips' rhythm and blues show and America's first black formatted station WDIA hitting the airwaves.
With twice yearly public tours and year round overnight stays, Elvis' apartment takes guests back to his time there with vintage furniture and fixtures personalized with Presley family photos and memorabilia.
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